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Over the past decade concern over the destruction of the world’s coastal rainforests has reached global proportions. Alarm about the extinction of species, the irreversible damage to the delicate balance of the Earth’s climate control system and the tragic harm that’s been done to First Nations cultures has captured the attention of millions of people around the world.
Many organizations have formed and are doing important work addressing virtually every aspect of the problem. And yet, rare coastal rainforests continue to be lost. Despite best efforts, the disappearance of our coastal rainforests, like many other global economic, social and environmental crises, seem beyond our ability to control. Obviously a new approach to the problem is needed.
Our elders and hereditary leaders have told us that a sustainable economy depends on our ability to create partnerships that combines the ancient wisdom of our traditional cultures with the intellectual and scientific expertise of the modern world. For thousands of years First Nations carefully managed the abundance of natural resources in the sea and on the land by relying on our knowledge of seasonal cycles to harvest a wide variety of resources without harming or depleting them.
The Need to Work Together
For many years our communities worked in isolation, but in the Spring of 2000, leaders of our communities on the Central and North Coast and Haida Gwaii came together to discuss the common challenges we face, such as high unemployment, a lack of economic opportunities in the resource sectors and a lack of access to resources in our Traditional Territories. It was clear from the outset that our strength would be to form a coast-wide alliance. Together we could make progress on the socio-economic issues that we have been largely unable to do as individual First Nations. By working together we would be better able to create a brighter future for our communities. We are optimistic that significant change can be achieved over the next 10-15 years through our work on land and marine use planning, economic initiatives and capacity building.
First Nations Leadership
The Great Bear Initiative was created with the conviction that if a conservation-based economy is to succeed, our active and meaningful participation is essential. We believe that the people who best know, use, and protect biodiversity are the First Nations people who live in these magnificent forests and waters.
Our experience has taught us that strong and thriving Coastal First Nations cultures, along with the recognition of our Aboriginal Title and Rights, is the key to a conservation-based economy in our Traditional Territories.
Our challenge is to develop a conservation-based economy on BC’s North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii recognizing the inextricable link between economic and ecological sustainability.
Our strategic approach to development includes:
- sustainable ecosystem-based management of marine and land resources;
- increased local control and management of forestry and fisheries operations;
- coordinated development through regional strategic planning in forestry, fisheries and tourism with an emphasis on value added initiatives;
- partnerships and cooperative arrangements with governments, industry, ENGOs and other stakeholder groups; and
- building capacity in our communities.